It’s Not About The Money, Scott Gessler–It’s About Trust

UPDATE: Reporter Tim Hoover of the Denver newspaper corrects our source, who told us that Scott Gessler also owns a “Lexus SUV” considerably newer than the “14-year-old Honda” that Gessler pled his case for extra money with earlier in the week. The Gessler family SUV in question is in fact a Volkswagen Touareg, which Gessler says his wife drives. We never claimed that Gessler was lying about owning the Honda (people can have more than one car, after all), and his spokesman indeed produced a photo of a dirty late 1990s vintage Civic.

We stand corrected; though we do still see Gessler as more of a Lexus guy.


Last Sunday, we talked a little about the problem in Colorado of chronically underpaid top elected officials. The pay for most state elected officials hasn’t been raised in over a decade, and we’ve commented several times over the years how this growing disparity between private sector compensation and that of Colorado’s elected officials could rightly be seen as a disincentive to some qualified professionals to seek office.

Now, the reason we brought this up again on Sunday, of course, is the controversy surrounding the decision by Secretary of State Scott Gessler to work part time at his old law firm while serving. Gessler’s firm, as everyone knows, is one of the principal representatives of right-leaning “soft money” groups in the state, raising very serious questions about conflicts associated with Gessler continuing to work there.

The particular circumstances of Gessler’s move–the lack of clarity on his plans on the campaign trail, Gessler’s long history of partisan political lawyering, the type of law firm we’re talking about, and the extensive authority of the Secretary of State in many aspects of business and elections all combine to greatly amplify criticism. But as the AP reports today via the Durango Herald, Gessler is responding to this with…deflections about the money.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told lawmakers Wednesday they should have a state commission review the salaries of state elected officials after he was criticized for wanting to work part-time for his old law firm…

He also told lawmakers the state underpays its elected officials. His current job as secretary of state pays $68,500 a year.

Colorado lawmakers currently set the salaries of statewide elected officials.

Like we said on Sunday, it’s a little bizarre to see a Republican arguing for higher pay in the middle of a huge budget crisis, and it’s even worse at the same moment that legislative Republicans are under fire for cutting school breakfasts for poor kids. The fact that we agree that these salaries are probably too low doesn’t make the timing any more politically appropriate–certainly not to take office complaining about it.

And while we’re on the subject of appearances, Gessler has made various statements about his present financial situation that are being exposed as factually challenged. Gessler reportedly owns several properties in the Denver area, including a spacious Capitol Hill colonial: this is a man who isn’t badly off by any stretch of the imagination. And despite his claim that he drives a “14 year old Honda” and says petulantly he would like a “new car someday,” we’re told he in fact drives a Lexus SUV Volkswagen Touareg–see update–of a considerably later model. He might not be lying about owning an old Honda, but he’s misleading to a fairly shocking extent–for a man expecting awful lot of trust.

To be honest, anecdotes like these being debunked kind of points back to the original problem, and shows again that it’s not about money: it’s about trust. And if Gessler is willing to fudge on small details like the car he “drives”…what else is he willing to fudge?

50 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Diogenesdemar says:

    if you want to describe Gessler’s house as something like a “4,000 square foot, two-story brick colonial in posh Capitol Hill” — that’s one thing; posting pictures of elected official’s private residences is quite another.

    I think you’ve crossed a boundary and should remove the photo ASAP.

  2. BlueCat says:

    cutting government spending. I guess that’s only for the peons who work in government offices. And of course he still doesn’t get it.

    A Denver paper ran an editorial that said that, while Gessler claims he mentioned his desire to moonlight with his old firm during the election, he didn’t mention it to their editorial board or on his website and there isn’t any record of his mentioning it at public events.  Tends to show he didn’t mention it before the election because he knew it wouldn’t go over well.  Tends to support questions about his general trustworthiness in an office that demands the highest level of public trust.

    The other moonlighters mentioned were the R AG and the R Treasurer. Now let’s all shed a tear for poor Gessler whose wife might have to get a job if he doesn’t take another, better paying (per hour) job as a lawyer with an election-law firm. You know, the high paying job he could have kept if he didn’t think SOS was going to work for him financially and which is entirely inappropriate for the guy in charge of elections.

  3. droll says:

    He needs that extra pay to afford the house you shouldn’t have posted a picture of.

    If a successful attorney can end up with a crap job and doesn’t having savings to keep the diggs, it really can happen to anyone.

    Truly, a sad day in America.  Or maybe because voters no longer think a basic sense of integrity is needed for elected office.  One of these things makes it a sad day.

  4. Pat Boon says:

    Was the salary a surprise? C’mon. He had to know what the job paid when he signed up to run. Deal with it. As a state employee (CSU) who hasn’t had a raise in 4 years I’m a little pissed at the elected officials making a big deal about the lack of salary increases for elected officials.

  5. cybersoul says:

    This SO[B] either can’t or won’t uphold the integrity and dignity of the office. He doesn’t server Colorado, only himself!

    • BlueCat says:

      In fact it will be very hard to get a recall off the ground, much less for it to succeed. It would be fun trying and the more we keep Gessler in the news with negative stories the better chance we have of throwing the bum out at the next opportunity, be that a lucky break on recall or next election. Also, keeping him under pressure and in the spotlight for sleaziness will make it harder for him to get away with anything in 2012.

      And I’m still waiting to hear the usual (nothing to see here, just picking on the R again) from the usual righties.  

      • cybersoul says:

        Normally, one mis-step usually teaches a politician a lesson, and they start walking more gingerly through the minefield that is politics.

        Maybe you’re right and this isn’t the right time. Only(!) 5000 signatures were raised by ProgressNow Colorado’s e-mail and web campaign petition to resign.

        But, that SO[B] just keeps digging himself deeper and deeper, maybe just providing the news stories that fuel the lucky breaks you’re talking about!

  6. TobiasFunke says:

    how many months of the campaign, seeking this office and the salary that comes with it?

    And not two weeks after he’s sworn in, he’s saying the money isn’t enough and he needs to do some REALLY questionable things to make enough to survive?

    Ridiculous. Completely ridiculous.

    How’s the effort to get a recall going?  

  7. JeffcoDemo says:

    If you look at how other states pay their SOS, Colorado is the 45th lowest.

    Where have I seen that number before??

    Oh, that’s right, we are 45th in terms of taxes.

    And since he believes our tax rates are too high, shouldn’t he be fighting for less pay??

  8. DavidThi808 says:

    How do Republicans expect to get elected to run anything in ’12? Granted in some places Freddy Kruger[R] will win. But in any competitive seat?

  9. Carolannie says:

    how do you start a recall petition?

  10. Half Glass Full says:

    1. Whine about your salary within weeks of getting elected.

    2. Claim you disclosed your intent to work part-time for your old law firm before the election – then fail to back it up.

    3. Totally screw up your own party’s argument that public officials and employees are overpaid and that taxes should be cut.

    4. Make your party look like absolute blithering Scrooges for wanting to cut breakfasts for kids at the same time that you want a higher salary.

    5. Insinuate that you’re stuck driving a 14-year-old Honda when in fact you drive a Lexus SUV – and that Honda is your second (third? fourth? fifth?) car.

    6. At the same time, refuse to give a penny of your department’s $3.5 million semi-surplus (at least, you’re having a hard time explaining what you’re planning on doing with it) to help the state as a whole meet its budget gap.

    7. Instead of taking a job teaching (a la Suthers) or in some other law firm with no obvious conflict of interest, go back to your OWN FIRM that practices ELECTION LAW. The most blatant conflict of interest ever.

    8. Basically come across in each and every public pronouncement of yours as the most self-absorbed, self-interested a-hole there ever was.

    The Colorado Republican Party should shun this loser as fast as possible. If this is what he’s accomplished a mere couple of weeks into office, the next couple of years should be a total P.R. disaster.  

  11. cdsmith says:

    I actually agree that state officials (especially including legislators) are underpaid in comparison to private sector positions, and this might be a disincentive.

    But at the same time, how the hell does Scott Gessler think he can get away with claiming that his $68,500 salary leaves him in financial hardship?  Does he not realize that this is WAY above the median income for entire households in Colorado, and OVER TWICE the median adult individual income… in other words, the only reason median household income is so high is that OTHER PEOPLE’S WIVES GO GET JOBS!

    Frankly, this looks incredibly out of touch… it’s similar to reading those editorials by CEOs claiming that Obama’s income limits attached to bailouts weren’t feasible because they had to keep up their nightly galas for the neighbors.

    • redstateblues says:

      one where the unemployment numbers are merely figures to cite that sound good for a stump speech, and not numbers that represent real people who would kill for a job that pays $38,000 a year, let a lone $68,000.

      To paraphrase Ken Buck, I think Colorado is feeling more and more buyer’s remorse every time Gessler opens his mouth.

    • PERA hopeful says:

      Remember how astounded he was when he went to a supermarket that had a scanner?  I think that was one reason he was a one-term president; people just wouldn’t vote for a guy was so removed from their reality that he apparently hadn’t been to a store in the however-many years since scanning started.

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